University presidents ask lawmakers to fight cuts

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Associated Press

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 11:01 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Presidents from Kentucky's biggest universities urged legislators to fight proposed cuts to higher education during testimony Thursday before a House panel.

Under Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed budget, both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville would receive a 2.5 percent funding reduction. The reduction would follow a 6 percent cut to the universities' general fund appropriations under the 2012 biennial budget, for a total of $10 million in funding cuts.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto told the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education that the school has not met its state mandate to become a top 20 research university. He said continued state investment in revenue-producing medical programs is crucial to securing outside research dollars.

"We certainly have progress on certain fronts," Capilouto said of the two schools' nationally funded cancer research programs. "Our research funding for the past year at the same time has been up 19 percent."

A former employee of the University of Louisville, Rep. Reggie Meeks, D-Louisville, asked the presidents to deliver reports on the size and costs of their administrative staffs.

Meeks also expressed concern that the schools' acclaimed sports programs could be contributing a larger portion of funding to academic programs.

Capilouto responded that revenues generated by University of Kentucky's athletic programs, which have a $90 million budget, contribute $12 million to $13 million annually toward academic programs.

University of Louisville President James Ramsey said continued stabilization of sports programs could also bolster on-campus student support functions, such as tutoring and academic mentoring.

Both presidents said continued cuts in public funding compel them to rely on partnerships with private entities and staff reductions. For the University of Louisville, private funding has recently surpassed public funding.

When asked about the effects of unprecedented private funding at the public university, Ramsey said that he is unconcerned.

"The heart and soul of the academy is the teaching and research," he said. "What we're privatizing are other activities, the business functions. And primarily the functions where the private sector is better at those things than we are anyway."

Both university presidents anticipate raising tuition rates in the coming two years.

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